Sunday, October 16, 2016

Could We Soon Be Witnessing the Fall of ISIL?

by Nomad

Battle of Mosul montage

Last Friday, while most of the US media was myopically focused on the collapse of Donald "Genitalia-Grabbing" Trump's campaign, there was, in fact, other news happening. With all the current talk about fights for survival and battleground states, it's easy to forget that a very genuine war is being fought.
And what happens in the battle for the capital of the Islamic State may have a profound effect on what happens next month in the US elections.

ISIS' Armageddon in Dabiq

At the end of last week, the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters scored a major and perhaps a decisive victory against the terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, otherwise known as ISIL or Daesh: the liberation of the strongholds of Dabiq and Soran. 

Since 24 August of this year, the Turkish military and Syrian rebel groups have joined together against ISIL forces in northern Syria in a cross-border operation called Euphrates Shield
Friday marked the Day 53 of that offensive with the Turkish military hitting at least 80 ISIL targets and reportedly killing 80 terrorists. Turkish news sources add:
Turkish warplanes also destroyed two military quarters and three buildings. The army added that since the beginning of the operation in late August, 28 mines and 1,156 handmade explosives of Daish terrorists have been safely destroyed.
After driving out the jihadist fighters, the FSA took control of the northern Syrian towns of Dabiq and Soran. Over the weekend, FSA fighters were still trying to neutralize the bombs set up by ISIL militants in the area, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Why is Dabiq so important? Well, Dabiq isn't just your average town in northern Syria.
"According to Islamic tradition, Dabiq will be the site of a final battle between Muslims and infidels heralding Doomsday."
To some devout Muslims, it's where Armageddon is to take place. For ISIL fighters, the loss of this symbolic town must have had extremely demoralizing implications, as they find themselves on the losing side in the battle of good and evil. 

There are other echoes of history, especially for Turks. Dabiq was also the site of a decisive military engagement for the Ottomans back in August 1516. This victory against the rival Mamluk Sultanate established the Ottoman Empire giving its armies control of the entire region of Syria and opened the door to the invasion of Egypt.

Meanwhile, Turkey's war against ISIL (also known as ISIS and Daesh) is far from over.
Security forces reportedly said the “hardest part” of Operation Euphrates Shield, the campaign by Turkey and allied Syrian rebels to target ISIL, was completed and campaigns will continue.
Under this tremendous military pressure, the territory controlled by ISIL has been shrinking quickly. More than 25 percent of the land taken over by militants in Iraq and Syria has been lost. This means ISIL now only controls an area the size of Sri Lanka. 
Much of that is entirely dependent on keeping its supply lines open and safe from Russian air bombardment in northern Syria and American bombardment in Iraq.

The Expected Liberation of Mosul

Meanwhile, to the east, in Iraq, ISIL is facing another decisive defeat as 25,000 US-trained Iraqi troops are preparing to drive ISIS forces out of Mosul. Home to more than two million residents, about the size of Houston, Mosul is ISIL's capital city.
And it also happens to be the terror group’s last bastion in Iraq.  

ISIS took over Iraq's second-largest city back in 2014 after Iraqi security forces threw down their weapons, abandoned their posts and fled. It was, by any standard, a disaster for the people who lived there. Hours after the fall of Mosul, ISIL launched a series of sectarian massacres which were documented and proudly displayed on social media. 

Fleeing Iraqi security forces left behind huge caches of US-made military equipment and supplies which were later used by ISIL forces to expand their territory. Militias poured south and captured Ramadi,  and seemed poised to take taking the capital Baghdad itself. All along the route to the capital, militia laid waste, looted and murdered civilians.  

Psychologically the fall of Mosul shook Iraq's stability at a time when it was still struggling to establish its own sovereignty after the Saddam period. Indeed, the nation of Iraq, at one point, seemed ready to collapse.

In addition, ISIL managed to loot the Central Bank of Mosul of an estimated $500 million in cash and gold, which was then used (along with revenue from the illegal sale of petroleum) to finance military, terror and propaganda operations.

In humanitarian terms, ISIS' capture of Mosul has led to some of the worst civilian atrocities of our time, including the slaughter of non-Muslim men women and children. In addition to mass executions and torture, young girls are reportedly being sold as sex slaves to ISIL fighters, with those refusing being murdered. 
A year after the fall of Mosul to ISIL, the organization released the names of about 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and government officials executed by the group. According to at least one source, that list contains the names of policemen, former army officers, local officials, lawyers, journalists, doctors, and rights activists, including many women.

Sadly, we can expect information on more horrors to emerge after Mosul falls and more of the residents come forward with their stories.

ISIS ISIL lost territory map

At this time, a patchwork of coalition of forces including the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces, (but not the Turkish) have been provided training by nearly a thousand American and British forces. Supplied with the logistics and military hardware, they are now readying for a final assault on the historic city.

By all accounts, there is a serious determination to liberate the city. According to reports from Turkish news agencies, the U.S. military deployed to the east of Iraq’s Mosul has started shelling ISIL targets as part of the ongoing preparation to retake the city.

Michael Fallon, Britain’s defence secretary, said military co-operation agreements were finalised on September 23, adding that “the encirclement operation will begin in the next few weeks” with Mosul being liberated “in the next few months”.
In the next week or so,  the forces are expected to completely encircle Mosul before launching a multi-pronged advance through the outskirts of Mosul. Meanwhile, these forces will be supported by US air power and artillery "including batteries of precision missiles that can shoot directly into the city in just 20 seconds."

Unlike what Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has suggested, carpet-bombing is not an option in this war. The use of tactical nuclear weapons  an idea Donald Trump refused to rule out, is equally foolhardy.

ISIL: A Terror Organization Encircled

mass murder ISIS ISILEssentially, ISIL's capital has been surrounded on all sides and no means of escape or outside assistance. Early this month, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, in a live broadcast to the people of Mosul, told residents that the end of ISIL would be coming imminently. 
“Today, you are closer than any time in the past to get rid of Daesh’s injustice and tyranny.”
The Iraqi air force yesterday dropped thousands of leaflets over the city, warning residents that a battle for the city is to commence within the next week.
"We are preparing to take action to free Mosul and regain security and stability in the region."
Ahmed Hussein a special forces soldier on the front, is predicting the fight will only last a few days.
"We would like to tell (civilians in Mosul) we are coming very soon, god willing."
As far as ISIL militants, he advised them to cast off their weapons and flee now while they still had the chance. 
However, surrender would mean facing a litany of war crimes, which include beheading, stoning, raping, crucifying and mass execution of innocent civilians.  
The Islamic State's total body count has yet to be tabulated but the UN claims that at least 18,802 civilians have been killed in Iraq in just the last two years.  

That the welcome end of ISIL is approaching is hard to deny. The liberation of Mosul will be, most people say, be the final blow for the organization.
However, that's not to say the battle for Mosul is an automatic victory. 

There's still a lot, experts on the ground warn, that could go wrong. Defeating the enemy is  naturally the primary goal of any war but it is also only one measure of victory. (As George W. Bush learned too late.) 

ISIL fighters, realizing the end of their reign of terror may soon be near, must certainly be desperate. What might be going on inside the city is impossible to speculate. Residents have had limited access to the outside world since Mosul fell.

Fighters are very likely to resort to any tactic to prolong the inevitable. This includes street to street fighting, road-side bombs, trenches fill with oils to provide smoke cover, an extensive network of tunnels, as well as the use of human shields. ISIL military operations have been established in hospitals, schools ,and mosques in an effort to keep them from being targeted by US bombers. 
This is what a last stand looks like.  

Victory and Preparing for the Worst 

Caught up in the middle of this hell on Earth are the 700,000 people are believed to be still trapped in the city. Keeping the battle for Mosul from turning into a civilian bloodbath is top priority (at least for coalition forces.) The possibility that there will be nothing left of Mosul before a victory against ISIl is declared is a distinct possibility.
A new refugee crisis - on top of the one that already exists in the region- seems impossible to avoid.
Iraq’s minister of refugees,  Jassim Mohammed al-Jaff, told journalists that his ministry was preparing for humanitarian operations surrounding the battle to liberate Mosul.
Mohammed added that the plans to evacuate the city are flexible and will evolve as the military operation unfolds.  He also explained that his ministry is expecting 750,000 residents to flee the city (of approximately 1.5 million people), with 500,000 going to refugee camps, and 250,000 to nearby abandoned village.
Jassem said he was expecting the liberation of Mosul to be a “crisis,” but “not a catastrophe.” 
That's about as good as it gets in this region.

There are other things that are harder to plan for. There are concerns too that the ensuing chaos after the liberation could lead to sectarian reprisals on local Sunnis. That's what has happened in other towns where they have tried to take control after ISIL left.
Thousands of well-trained police will be needed immediately to establish law and order as fast as possible after the liberation or there could be a new bloody struggle for control, experts say.

Nobody is going to proclaim "Mission Accomplished" when Mosul falls. There are too dangerous scenarios even in the wake of a victory to consider.
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Meanwhile, in the US, the Republicans are scrambling with a last stand of their own. The demented Trump, the candidate who accused the President of "literally" being the leader and founder of ISIL, will have to face a new election year crisis when the brutal terrorist organization's reign of terror all but over in Syria and Iraq.